Tue 25 Jun 2019
WARTIME SURVIVOURS IN SOUTHGATE by Ian K. Jones
After 1945 Southgate rapidly removed the majority of its wartime structures and street furniture. This article will look at some of what survives in Southgate in the hope that some readers will provide others to be added to the record.
When preparations for war began in the late 1930’s Southgate was quick of the mark, putting on a comprehensive display of Air Raid Precautions in Broomfield Park in the summer of 1938 which was filmed for training purposes. On government instructions structures including air raid shelters, air raid warden’s posts, pillboxes and gas decontamination centres were rapidly designed and built. At the end of the war many of the plans were put in a “safe place” and now form an important part of the WWII archive in the Local Studies Centre at Dugdale House.
Many people built their own shelters but most who had the space opted for the earth covered corrugated steel Anderson Shelter while others later used the indoor table-like Morrison. Only some public shelters are presently known to survive here. Two in the grounds of Arnos School, now the Broomfield Campus, can be seen from the road. Shelters were also created inside structures deemed strong enough like the space below the bridge stairs at Palmers Green Station.
The last surviving warden’s post in the Borough, D4, was demolished sometime after 1971 but the Gas Decontamination Centre in Broomfield Park still stands with its distinctive water tower. It was used as changing rooms for many years but is presently empty. Many existing buildings were used for civil defence purposes including Southgate Town Hall, whose basement was the local Air Raid Precautions, later Civil Defence, control centre.
There were a huge variety of defences created to protect London from invasion but all that are presently known to survive are a couple of pillboxes. Everything else like tank traps, and anti-glider obstacles seem to have vanished. One pillbox at Oakwood Station covers both the line and the tracks to the sidings. The other was one of three on the perimeter of the Officers POW camp at Trent Park which kept rescuers out as well as the occupants in. Their recorded conversations, which are now being studied, provided the Allies with much vital information.*
Much more information about Southgate and Enfield as a whole will be found in Enfield At War, 1939-1945 to be published in July 2019 in conjunction with a major exhibition at Enfield Museum in the Dugdale Centre.
*Find out more about the history of Trent Park during the war and the opening of the museum in 2021 at trentparkmuseum.org.uk.
This article was featured in the summer issue of Palmers Green and Southgate LIFE magazine.
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